West Midlands approves green Covid-19 recovery plan to spur net-zero transition by 2041
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has approved plans for a "green" recovery from Covid-19's economic impacts on the region, in what is believed to be a UK first.
Building on the Authority’s existing commitment to transition the region to net-zero carbon emissions by 2041, nine years ahead of the national target, the blueprint outlines a series of measures designed to drive energy efficiency, decarbonise energy and transport systems and tackle air pollution.
It commits the WMCA, which comprises 18 councils and three local enterprise partnerships, to developing and rolling out a retrofitting scheme for “old and cold” homes across the region; accelerating its roll-out of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) and expanding active transport initiatives.
The Authority will also work with stakeholders in the private and public sectors to develop a roadmap for speeding up the region’s automotive industry’s transition to EVs, given that Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), Dennis Eagle and GKN Driveline all have manufacturing facilities in the West Midlands.
For SMEs specifically, the WMCA will launch a green innovation challenge, incentivising the development of new products, systems and concepts aimed at tackling climate change.
While all of these actions can be completed in the short-term, the green recovery blueprint also includes plans to reach zero-waste-to-landfill by 2040, expand green spaces, support the greening of urban spaces and embed natural capital thinking in the decision-making of both the Authority and businesses in the region. A natural capital approach assigns a monetary value to natural resources such as healthy soil, clean water and clean air, enabling the environmental impact of projects to be more easily factored into financial processes.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said the plan “helps to give clear direction of how to achieve a green and inclusive economic recovery from Coronavirus” for the region. The plan may also be used to inform the UK Government’s national strategy for economic recovery, due to be unveiled by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the latter half of June.
Street has been calling on the UK Government to implement a Green New Deal – a policy framework enabling all regions to create a socially just and economically beneficial net-zero transition – pre-pandemic, as part of a joint campaign with the IPPR and WWF.
WMCA’s new plan notably fleshes out the Authority’s existing roadmap for reaching net-zero by 2041, introduced last year.
Since the UK legislated to enshrine its 2050 net-zero target into law, the vast majority of local authorities have declared climate emergencies, with many setting more ambitious timelines for total net decarbonisation.
Oxford City Council, for example, is aiming for carbon-neutral operations by the end of the year and a carbon-neutral local area by 2030. Similarly, Exeter City Council is due to make a decision on whether to implement a 2030 net-zero target and supporting roadmap. The earliest net-zero deadline for an English council at present is 2028, set by Nottingham City Council. The local authority's action plan for meeting that ambition was published late last month, following consultation with more than 900 individuals and organisations.